Friends will be foes in U.S. semifinal

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The only two United States unbeaten teams at the Little League Baseball World Series — Ocean View Little League from Huntington Beach, champions of the West, and Big Sky Little League from Billings, Mont., representing the Northwest — will play at 5 p.m. PDT Wednesday at Lamade Stadium.

The game will be televised by ESPN and will feature two teams that are not only 2-0, but good friends, as well.

Both the West and Northwest regionals were at the Little League complex in San Bernardino, and Ocean View and Billings traveled together to the east, flying on the same plane into Newark, N.J. and busing about four hours to Williamsport.

They have battled at ping pong and showed off together in the swimming pool at the dorm complex here.

"We're better at ping pong by a lot," said Ocean View pitcher/catcher Hagen Danner.

Ocean View Manager Jeff Pratto said Tuesday that he won't decide until Wednesday whether to start right-handed pitcher Braydon Salzman or his son, left-handed Nick Pratto.

Montana is expected to start its ace: 5-foot-9, 130-pound, 13-year-old Cole McKenzie. Montana, like California, has lost once in its tournament season (10-6 to Oregon, which it ended up beating 7-1 in the regional finals).

It was also McKenzie who had a key two-run double when Billings beat the Midwest team from Rapid City, S.D., 6-4, in its first game here.

Big Sky Manager Gene Carlson said his team's success is based on three things: "Pitching, defense and timely hits."

It's the same basis that has worked for Ocean View.

Montana has never sent a team to the LLWS before. Patrick Zimmer, who pitched five shutout innings Sunday when Billings surprised one of the U.S. favorites, the Southwest representative from Lafayette, La., said the only pressure his team faces is school-related.

"It's started back home," he said. "We want to stay here as long as possible."

The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to Saturday's U.S. championship game. The loser will play an elimination game Thursday.

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